Color, 1999, 87 mins.

Directed by Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk

Starring Amy Weber, Donny Terranova, Nichole Pelerine, John Fairlie, Promise LeMarco, Ilia Volokh, Linnea Quigley / Music by William Kidd / Produced by Dana Altman and Nne Ebong / Cinematography by Yoram Astrakhan

Format: DVD - York (MSRP $24.99)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) / Dolby Digital 5.1

Until Dario Argento goes back to making old-fashioned gory slasher mysteries, audiences will have to content themselves with Anerican imitations, of which Kolobos is one of the better examples. Though apparently filmed on a very low budget, the film sports visual style to burn, some extraordinarily graphic murder sequences, earnest performances, and a crackerjack premise.

The films begins with a lengthy subjective sequence in which a badly mutilated girl is brought out of a rainstorm into a hospital, where her wounds are treated and she begins to recover in a hospital room. Thanks to the interrogations of her bedridden neighbor and an attending nurse, the girl begins experiencing flashbacks to the previous day. Five young people respond to a classified ad seeking adventurous, open-minded people for a Real World-style experimental film. The various participants include a low budget soft porn/horror actress, a struggling stand-up comedian, a smartass fast food worker, and a clean cut college guy. The fifth guinea pig, Kyra (soap actress Amy Weber, sort of a less perky Jennifer Love Hewitt), is an anxiety-ridden young psychiatric patient prone to doodling gruesome images. The "actors" convene in an isolated house where video cameras monitor their every move, though the director stops by to offer them some pizza and offer some general guidelines about the project. Unfortunately, after he leaves, the windows and doors are all sealed with unbrekable metal plating, and lethal booby traps begin decimating the young hopefuls at the most unexpected moments.

Though structurally a generic slasher film and little more (if you've seen Curtains, you know the routine), Kolobos generates a surprising amount of mileage out of its creepy, unsettling framing and recurring images, including one doozy of a scare exactly one hour into the film. The filmmakers are obvious lovers of the horror genre, with some welcome nods to author Poppy Z. Brite and particularly Argento, whose Deep Red tooth-bashing is reprised during one especially splashy scene. The effective but irritatingly derivative score by William Kidd manages to swipe from Suspiria, Inferno, and Phenomena in the first five minutes alone, but it still works wonders and enhances the garish, candy-colored lighting schemes. Washed up scream queen Linnea Quigley turns up briefly at the beginning, an amusing touch considering the tribute to her antler murder in Silent Night, Deadly Night performed later in the film. None of the characters are especially appealing, but the actors all do a passable job and conquer the sometimes scrappy dialogue recording, which suffers from that familiar, hollow "made for video" sound. Unfortunately, like most horror films in the past couple of years, Kolobos proves to be too clever for its own good and paints itself into a corner. Just when the film works up to a creepy, tense climax, the film stops dead in its tracks, refuses to explain itself, and lumbers along for a deadening ten minute epilogue that defiantly goes against everything that preceded it. As with The Last Broadcast and especially The Blair Witch Project, it's really a shame to see a potentially classic premise flushed away by filmmakers unable to resolve their own narrative. This "figure it out for yourself" technique only really worked for Cube, and hopefully this irritating, illogical trend will wear out by the time 2000 rolls around.

Apart from the wretched cover design which makes this look like some kind of kinky werewolf movie (?!), York has done a surprisingly top drawer job of bringing Kolobos to DVD. The image quality is very clear and stable; every hue in the palette drenches the shadowy hallways, making this a very satisfying piece of eye candy. The highly manipulative 5.1 audio features some jolting directional sound effects (love those flying buzzsaws!), despite the aforementioned "canned" dialogue problems. A pretty good trailer is also included, though oddly, it neglects to give the film's title. Other extras include Spanish subtitles and a "behind the scenes" which just amounts to a two page bio of Ms. Weber. All in all, this tense, scary treat is a satisfying rental bet for horror buffs -- just don't expect much logic, and try to overlook the dismal ending.

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